On sharing slides

The recent podcast started the discussion around sharing slides. I felt it would be helpful to expand upon some of the ideas in written format. All of this was sparked by a discussion from this tweet and the subsequent discussion.

Is it reasonable to share a tweet of a slide you didn’t like. Yes, in my opinion it is entirely reasonable to share your opinion on a slide you have seen. The presenter has offered this as part of part of their opinion and it is as much part of the discussion as their premise and conclusion. Whilst there is no specific permission given to discuss this on Twitter, discussion whether electronic or in the coffee shop after is equally valid. The discussion is as valid in a positive or negative situation. If, as every presenter hopes, their message is valued, it will be shared in many media. It is unreasonable to expect only positive comment on a presentation.

A presentation once delivered is no longer the property of the presenter. By definition that is its very purpose. The introduction of the speaker, their provenance and even contact details are often part of the introductory or closing slides (for some it is every slide). There is no pretence at anonymity. It is reasonable to comment and share insights from the piece and whether positive or negative. The piece is more than simply the facts; it is the product of the story, the media and its delivery. The opinion of the audience upon this is paramount, not the presenter.

Of course criticism is never easily received, less so if it is unexpected or unwelcome. There is a naivety in some presenters in not understanding that opinion will be shared by their audience on the presentation, a negative impression may however be unexpected. This may be magnified by the discussion around the issue on Twitter (as above) and lead to the presenter feeling vulnerable. This feeling should be taken into account with comments in the same way any tweet does; one must be willing to stand by one’s opinion whether that is generally held or otherwise. The same applies however for the presenter. Their message was neither delivered in a vacuum nor designed solely to stay within the auditorium. The discussion of scientific conferences and social media output surely is already a thing of last year.

slide sharingShould comment upon a slide, conclusions, delivery be delivered in an educational way? I don’t believe that is the role of the tweeter, the expectation of the presenter or the purpose of the discussion. Moreover, I suspect few presenters receiving negative comments would be in a place to receive such comment. Direction towards better examples, the science behind the opinion or alternative ideas is noble but unrealistic for many. I would be comfortable for links directing such issues to the website and potentially clearer explanation.

There is a psychological safety built by commenting from behind a keyboard and screen. Very few audience members in receipt of a slide as above would actually take the time to meet the presenter personally and engage in the educational discussion outlined above. This speaks more of unwillingness to engage with difficult discussions and not holding the opinion. However, presenters are often confused by audience “feedback” designating “an excellent presentation” almost as standard before any question is asked. Moreover, the achievement of the same level of mediocrity as seen around them leads many to believe that this is a standard to be lauded. Until clearer examples and understanding are more widespread it is not entirely the fault of presenters believing that such a slide is acceptable and thus even more of a shock to find it negatively critiqued.

Poor presentations are the fault of those who receive them without comment, who coach delivery in a style recognised by many as ineffectual and by continuing to suggest incorrectly that such approaches are “scientific“, “academic” or “professional”. A poor presentation, whether by design, content or delivery shows a lack of respect to the audience, their time and even their employers. So little real value is derived from poor presentations. Those who believe that presentations can and must be improved must set the example, understand the science not fashion behind these improvements and gently show the way for those who would improve themselves. Critique of perceived poor quality is understandable, it is not bullying. Just don’t be a dick.

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Last minute tips

So, The Greatest Presentation in Your World #gpitw is constructed, practised, duplicated and ready to go but still the good presenter is looking for last minute tips just to make it truly awesome. What can be achieved in the short period between now and the big moment? Here are ten tips to consider that may just add that dash of wasabi to top things off perfectly.

last minute tips

  1. practise in a big lecture theatre before a live audience
    there’s nothing quite like a live audience and for That Big Presentation there is a real value in practising before a live audience. It may not be possible to replicate the 2500 expected at The Big Event but even 10 colleagues in the local lecture theatre, primed appropriately can offer feedback that will hugely benefit the main event.
  2. run through Worst Case Scenario
    for almost every presenter the p2 technical fail will evoke The Worst Case Scenario. Practise to manage this. Even the best setups, the most advanced IT staff and presenters can fall foul of the presentation demons. Practise to manage this. Begin your presentation and simply turn off the monitor. Whatever happens, keep going and ensure that the punchline is delivered. Then reflect on the issues and set in place a means to cope with this.
  3. make a pdf copy of the presentation
    this is the most basic of backups and clearly has no options for animation (if used) but in the face of real IT trouble it is likely that a pdf can be shown, page by page. It can also be transported on all smart phones and allows the presenter to review their presentation and practise even on the bus from the airport. Save it, with the other backups, in the cloud, not on a usb.
  4. deliver your presentation silently
    watch any bobsleigh race at the Winter Olympics and the pilot can be seen sat on the floor but weaving his head like Bez, from The Happy Mondays. Find a safe space and without speaking out loud, deliver the whole presentation. Work deliberately through each slide and actually make the presentation. Force yourself to speak the words in your head and imagine the individual slides. It takes real effort, but provides real reward.
  5. learn verbatim the introductory paragraph to the presentation
    this encapsulates the whole presentation, the reason for the audience to listen and the direction the piece will take. Practise this over and over out loud until this is perfectly grooved in nuance and pace. Standing on the stage for The Big Event, this will then flow perfectly and add further confidence to delivery.
  6. learn verbatim the closing paragraph to the presentation
    this encapsulates the whole presentation, the reason for the audience to listen and the direction the piece has taken. Practise this over and over out loud until this is perfectly grooved in nuance and pace. Standing on the stage for The Big Event, this will then flow perfectly and add further confidence to delivery.
  7. select a colleague for specific feedback
    “thank you for your excellent presentation, I very much enjoyed it,” is neither valuable nor effective feedback. Select a trusted colleague who will be in the audience and ask them a single, directed question about The Greatest Presentation in Your World. Then specifically consider how you can improve that before the big moment.
  8. visualise success
    a valuable technique is to visualise success for the presentation. How have you considered that you would like the audience to react (beyond rapturous applause)? Consider what specific change the presentation was directed towards, the understanding to be transferred or challenge raise. Visualise that clearly and consider in single steps how that will be achieved beyond simple recitation.
  9. set up timed tweets
    the message of the presentation is for the audience within the hall. the presentation is designed and delivered for them. the message has value beyond there and to ensure this is true to the intent of the presenter there is value in using automated, timed or programmed tweets to back up the message as it is delivered rather than leave that to the vagaries of the forest of smartphones and misheard interpretation. Try these,  twittimer or Hootsuite.
  10. relax
    any presentation that has been fashioned and nuanced, practised and considered this far is clearly going to deliver. Make sure the delivery is improved by relaxing beforehand and understanding that this huge input of time and effort and passion will be rewarded. Great sportsmen and women believe their goal has been achieved and that their performance is the pinnacle of that, not its achievement. This allows them a calm confidence that further empowers the delivery.

A presentation is the product of its parts and preparation is an essential within this. Ensure that before The Greatest Presentation in Your World that time is given to practise, visualisation and relaxation and then take that confidence onto the stage.

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Version 1 is never the best

Version 1 of your presentation is never the best version. Most presenters, given the opportunity to revisit a presentation for another audience, make changes and deliver an improved version 2. Yet few make similar changes to version 1 before its delivery. This is a missed opportunity. Version 1 is never the best.

The construction of a presentation goes through many stages. The #htdap offers various approaches and each suggests significant numbers of review and edit stages. The initial idea for a presentation, the understanding of audience needs, construction of the arc of the story and storyboard give structure to a presentation. It is then illustrated and (hopefully) practised numerous times before delivery. The opportunities for change are significant if the presenter is wise to the possibility. The number of changes made to p2 in the last few hours show the desire for improvement. Version 1 is never the best.

Most presentations change little between conception and delivery. The reasons are probably complex but likely to include time, practise and reflection. The advice of 5 minutes preparation time per audience member is a rough metric. Important meetings need more preparation time. The use of that time in each of the sections should be balanced. It seldom is. Practise suffers major compression in planning and it is frequently within good practise that helpful edits become apparent. This is emphasised by changes that become clear after delivery. Reflection too takes time and whether this is simply away from the laptop or with a helpful colleague, it should be remembered that most films are hugely improved by editing, not repetition. Version 1 is never the best.

version 1 For the next presentation to be delivered, even if it is in two weeks, make a particular effort to set time aside to practise real delivery (without a script), reflect on the result and look for opportunities to improve further. This may be minor links, shifting a slide or completely re-thinking the ending. Don’t be afraid to change, the improvement will ensure that the version delivered on the day is not the first but the best.

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